The French saying "Petit à petit l'oiseau fait son nid"

On this page, we are going to teach you everything you want to know about the basic saying “Petit à petit l’oiseau fait son nid”.

This include a complete definition of what it mean and how you can use it in everyday life with an audio example. And because learning a new language is important, we also added some super useful stuff like literal meaning, dialogue example, slow pronunciation audio and more!

Oh and if you are interested, you can find more sayings guides like this one on this page and all our guides about French words on this page. Wishing you a happy learning!

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Translation in English

How to pronounce

Slow pronunciation

Normal pronunciation

What does it mean?


“Petit à petit” literally means “Little by little” and “L’oiseau fait son nid” literally means “The bird builds his nest“.

Let’s imagine a bird carrying twigs, brushwoods and other little pieces of wood all day to build his nest. No matter how long he takes to complete his task, no matter how many back and forth are required, there is no doubt he will succeed.

Because birds and humans can’t achieve “big” things, they can only achieve many little things that bring them closer to their goals.

This proverb teaches us that with patience and perseverance: everything is possible, no matter how hard the task.

How to use it

We can use these wise words as a reminder of being patient and never give up on our dreams, but also to inspire and motivate people.

For example, if a friend thinks of quitting a commitment/project, afraid of the hard work to come, reminds him/her that “Petit à petit, l’oiseau fait son nid“. That just like the bird, with patience and dedication, he/she will make it.

Synonyms and similarities

  • Rome n’a pas été construite en une seule journée. (“Rome wasn’t built in one day“)
  • Goutte à goutte, l’eau creuse la pierre. (“Drop by drop, the water digs the stone“)
  • Les petits ruisseaux font les grandes rivières. (“The little streams make the big rivers“)

Example in a story with translation

Now, let’s see a complete example of this idiom in a story with slow French audio and the English translation below.
Prise de poids
Weight gain
Rémi regarde dans le miroir et dit :
Rémi looks in the mirror and says:
Rémi:   Je n’arrive pas à y croire !
I can’t believe it!
Karine se détourne de son ordinateur et regarde Rémi.
Karine looks away from her computer and looks at Rémi.
Karine:   Qu’est-ce que tu n’arrives pas à croire ?
What can’t you believe?
Rémi:   Je fais de la musculation et je ne vois aucun résultat !
I’m doing weight training and I don’t see any results!
Karine:   Tu as commencé quand ?
When did you start?
Rémi:   Il y a une semaine environ.
About a week ago.
Karine:   Tu ne penses pas qu’il est trop tôt pour voir les résultats ?
Don’t you think it’s too early to see results?
Rémi:   Non, je pense qu’il est temps.
No, I think it’s time.
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